Since the tragic death of George Floyd on May 25, the awakening of our country to an ill already known by people of color has paralyzed us in a moment in time.
The past few weeks the shadow of anger, grief, trauma and hostility creeped into my home as I watched social media conversations wrestle with the question of, “What have we allowed to occur in our country?”
It’s the same racism that kept the secret of Jan. 1, 1863, emancipation from the slaves in Texas until the Union general descended on the shores of Galveston Island to tell them in person that they were free on June 19, 1865.
It’s the same evil that causes our local county government to shield police misconduct reports from the general public. The same evil that allows some of our local cops to sport Confederate symbols beneath the black police uniform. It’s the same racist evil that allows a black woman to be surrounded by two police departments, and they aren’t sure why she’s being stopped.
That same evil that kept the secret of Abraham Lincoln’s great Emancipation Proclamation from reaching the shores of Galveston for nearly three years.
In my family, Juneteenth represents a day of celebration and remembering our ancestors and their fortitude to survive in a land that hated them and some who went to war to keep them as slaves. It’s a day of atonement and forgiveness as we remember the good Americans who went to fight in a war so that all Americans could be free.
The psychology of Juneteenth reminds us that we too are America. Despite shackled with chains, we helped to build and grow this great nation. With our ancestors’ blood, we worked, we lived and we died in a land that refused to call us her own.
And we have struggled and fought for that birthright ever since.
The celebration of Juneteenth reminds us that America belongs to us regardless of what any man says. On this day, typically a weekend experience, we gather, we sing, we laugh, we eat, we reminisce, we pray and we recall the blessings of our God to set us free in a nation where racism creeps in and out of the fabric of our everyday lives and yet somehow we survive.
Though physical chains were unlocked, the economic chains, the drug dumping in our communities, the systematic display of liquor stores, abortion clinics, cramped and subsidized housing, high interest rates, invaded our spaces. But on Juneteenth we get to forget that invasion and focus on the strength of our families to survive in such a world where at times education and wealth doesn’t always shield you.
And yet, we still manage to celebrate despite that same evil that causes a sitting president to declare that he made Juneteenth famous. We are survivors in a land whose inhabitants for a brief period of time will finally celebrate with us and see what we see.